Category Archives: Handbook

Changes to legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in force on Monday

Funding for private family law cases is generally only available where the applicant for legal aid can show that they are a victim of domestic abuse, or where they can show that the aim of the proceedings is to protect a child at risk of abuse from a third party (such applications are in scope because of Paras 12 and 13 of Part 1 Schedule 1 of LASPO; see also Chapter 6 of the Handbook). Until the successful challenge to the original regulations by Rights of Women, there was a requirement that the evidence in support of the application had to be no more than 2 years old. Following the litigation, that was extended to 5 years.

From Monday 8 January 2018, the five year limit is removed. The existing evidence requirements are also removed, and replaced with a new Schedule 1 of the Procedure Regulations. When the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2017 come into force, acceptable evidence (for civil legal services to be provided to an adult (A) in relation to a matter arising out of a family relationship between A and another individual (B)) will include:

Domestic abuse – para 12 Part 1 Schedule 1 LASPO cases

  • Evidence that B has been arrested for a relevant domestic violence offence.
  • A relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence.
  • Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence which have not concluded.
  • A relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence.
  • Evidence of a court order binding over B in connection with a domestic violence offence.
  • A domestic violence protection notice issued under section 24 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 against B.
  • A relevant protective injunction.
  • An undertaking given in England and Wales under section 46 or 63E of the Family Law Act 1996 (or given in Scotland or Northern Ireland in place of a protective injunction) by B provided that a cross-undertaking relating to domestic violence was not given by A.
  • A copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom, that there has been domestic violence by B.
  • An expert report produced as evidence in proceedings in the United Kingdom for the benefit of a court or tribunal confirming that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter or report from an appropriate health professional confirming that that professional, or another appropriate health professional—
    • (a)has examined A in person; and
    • (b)in the reasonable professional judgement of the author or the examining appropriate health professional A has, or has had, injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic violence.
  • A letter or report from—
    • (a) the appropriate health professional who made the referral described below;
    • (b) an appropriate health professional who has access to the medical records of A; or
    • (c) the person to whom the referral described below was made;
    • confirming that there was a referral by an appropriate health professional of A to a person who provides specialist support or assistance for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence.
  • A letter from any person who is a member of a multi-agency risk assessment conference (or other suitable local safeguarding forum) confirming that A, or a person with whom A is in a family relationship, is or has been at risk of harm from domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from an independent domestic violence advisor confirming that they are providing support to A.
  • A letter from an independent sexual violence advisor confirming that they are providing support to A relating to sexual violence by B.
  • A letter from an officer employed by a local authority or housing association (or their equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) for the purpose of supporting tenants containing—
    • (a) a statement to the effect that, in their reasonable professional judgment, a person with whom B is or has been in a family relationship is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B;
    • (b) a description of the specific matters relied upon to support that judgment; and
    • (c) a description of the support they provided to the victim of domestic violence or the person at risk of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from an organisation providing domestic violence support services. 
    • The letter must confirm that it—
      • (a) is situated in England and Wales;
      • (b) has been operating for an uninterrupted period of six months or more; and
      • (c) provided A with support in relation to A’s needs as a victim, or person at risk, of domestic violence.
    • (3) The letter must contain—
      • (a) a statement to the effect that, in the reasonable professional judgement of the author of the letter, A is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence;
      • (b) a description of the specific matters relied upon to support that judgement;
      • (c) a description of the support provided to A; and
      • (d) a statement of the reasons why A needed that support.
  • A letter or report from an organisation providing domestic violence support services in the United Kingdom confirming—
    • (a) that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship was refused admission to a refuge;
    • (b) the date on which they were refused admission to the refuge; and
    • (c) they sought admission to the refuge because of allegations of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from a public authority confirming that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B (or a copy of that assessment).
  • A letter from the Secretary of State for the Home Department confirming that A has been granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom under paragraph 289B of the Immigration Rules.
  • Evidence which the Director is satisfied demonstrates that A has been, or is at risk of being, the victim of domestic violence by B in the form of abuse which relates to financial matters.  

Protection of children – para 13 Part 1 Schedule 1 LASPO cases

  • Evidence that B has been arrested for a child abuse offence.
  • A relevant police caution for a child abuse offence.
  • Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a child abuse offence which have not concluded.
  • A relevant conviction for a child abuse offence.
  • A relevant protective injunction.
  • A copy of a finding of fact made in proceedings in the United Kingdom of abuse of a child by B.
  • A letter from a social services department in England and Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that the child was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by B (or a copy of that assessment).
  • A letter from a social services department in England and Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that a child protection plan was put in place to protect the child from abuse or a risk of abuse by B (or a copy of that plan).
  • An application for an injunction described in paragraph 5 of this Schedule made with an application for a prohibited steps order against B under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 which has not, at the date of the application for civil legal services, been decided by the court.

Withdrawal of legal aid

The rules on when the Director can withdraw a grant of legal aid have also been revised. The new rule (a revised Reg 42(1)(k) of the Procedure Regulations) says legal aid may be withdrawn where the evidence relied on was:

  • a conviction for an offence and that conviction has subsequently been quashed; 
  • evidence of ongoing criminal proceedings and those proceedings have subsequently been concluded without a conviction;
  • evidence described in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 or paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 where—
    • (a) the order was obtained without notice to the respondent; and
    • (b) that order has subsequently been set aside by the court;
  • evidence described in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 where the application for a domestic violence protection order has been made under section 27 of the Crime and Security Act 2010(6) but has been unsuccessful on account of the conditions set out in section 28 of that Act not having been satisfied;
  • evidence described in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 where no charge is brought for the domestic violence offence (within the meaning of Schedule 1) and the Director is satisfied that it is unlikely that such a charge will be brought;
  • evidence described in paragraphs 16 to 18 of Schedule 1 and a public authority has confirmed in writing that it is satisfied—
    • (a) there has not been domestic violence between A and B; or
    • (b) A was not at any time at risk of being the victim of domestic violence
  • evidence described in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 where no charge is brought for the child abuse offence (within the meaning of Schedule 2) and the Director is satisfied that it is unlikely that such a charge will be brought;
  • evidence of an application described in paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 and that application has subsequently been withdrawn or refused,

unless there is some other form of evidence which would also justify a grant of legal aid.

Transitional provisions

The new evidence requirements are not backdated. They will only apply to Controlled work applications signed from Monday 8 January onward. Licensed Work applications signed from Monday 8 January will be made under the new rules, but those signed before that date and received by the LAA before 5pm on 15 January will be treated under the old rules. Grants of emergency representation made before 8 January will be treated under the old rules even if the 5 day notification is received by the LAA after 8 January.

Comment

This is a helpful development. Although the requirement to obtain evidence is still in place – with all the practical difficulties that causes – the widening of the range and age of what constitutes acceptable evidence should help make legal aid available more widely than before.

The manner of the change is also a helpful development. We have been saying for some years now – in the Handbook, on this site and elsewhere – that the current system of amending the scheme is not fit for purpose. Post-LASPO, most of the significant rules are no longer in LAA documents, but in primary and secondary legislation. Amendments to the rules are made via amendments to the legislation. Neither the MoJ nor the LAA make consolidated versions of the regulations available, and nor does the legislation.gov.uk website. That means – unless you have the sort of subscription legal research tool that is unaffordable to most legal aid lawyers – the only way to work out the current rules is to cross-reference the original and amending regulations. The civil legal aid merits tests, for example, are not publicly available – unless you read four sets of regulations side by side, manually amending them as you go (or unless you buy the Handbook!). The MoJ and LAA should urgently make available – and keep up to date – a single consolidated version of all the key legal aid regulations. It cannot be right that the fundamental basis of the scheme is obscure to practitioners – and impenetrable to the public using it. It hasn’t yet gone that far, but removing the previous much amended sections of the Procedure Regulations and replacing them with a single up to date Schedule is a welcome step in the right direction. In the meantime, links to all the regulations and other resources can be found on our Resources page.

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New Handbook published

The new edition of the Handbook has now been published and pre-order copies are being dispatched. You can order your copy from LAG here.

This book is an invaluable companion and essential reading for all legal aid practitioners, from caseworkers to senior partners. The authors have expertly pulled together information that is not currently available in one place providing the only single volume guide to the criminal and civil legal aid scheme.

‘… admirably clear on some very tricky points. There should be at least one copy in every office where legal aid work is carried out.’ Carol Storer, director, LAPG.

‘I wish I could say “this book is never off my desk” but the truth is my copy of LAG Legal Aid Handbook always appears to be on someone else’s … Essential reading for all practitioners seeking to provide a first class service to clients in a post-LASPO world.’  Phil Walsh Partner/Practice Manager, Miles & Partners LLP.

The  LAG legal aid handbook 2017/18 gives practical, step by step guidance on conducting cases, getting paid, advocacy, financial and contract management, performance monitoring and quality standards and an overview of recent policy developments. There are separate chapters on all the major areas of law covered by legal aid and sections devoted to litigators and advisers, advocates and managers.

This edition has been updated to include:

•  full coverage of the new 2017 crime contract

•  latest changes and updates to the civil scheme

•  discussion of current case law and hot topics in legal aid practice

•  hints, tips and practical advice from how to manage a contract to navigating CCMS

•  specialist chapters on billing, crime, public family law, private family law, housing, mental health, immigration and exceptional funding

•  a dedicated section for advocates

•  guidance on managing legal aid work and tendering for contracts

•  a full round up of the latest policy developments

The only comprehensive guide to the whole legal aid scheme, the new edition features chapters written by expert contributors Anthony Edwards, Richard Charlton, Steve Hynes, Solange Valdez-Symonds and Katie Brown. The LAG legal aid handbook 2017/18 is packed full of case studies, checklists and practical tips. It provides clear and easy to follow guidance on the ever more complex legal aid system and is essential reading for everyone involved in legal aid from new caseworkers to experienced lawyers and managers.

 

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The new Handbook – coming very soon!

The brand new edition of the LAG Legal Aid Handbook will be published at the beginning of April. Fully revised and updated, this edition features

  • full coverage of the new 2017 crime contract
  • latest changes and updates to the civil scheme
  • discussion of current case law and hot topics in legal aid practice
  • hints, tips and practical advice from how to manage a contract to navigating CCMS
  • specialist chapters on billing, crime, public family law, private family law, housing, mental health, immigration and exceptional funding
  • a dedicated section for advocates
  • guidance on managing legal aid work and tendering for contracts
  • a full round up of the latest policy developments

The Handbook is edited by Vicky Ling and Simon Pugh, and features contributions from a range of subject experts including Anthony Edwards, Steve Hynes, Richard Charlton, Solange Valdez-Symonds and Katie Brown.

You can pre-order your copy now by e-mailing: direct.orders@marston.co.uk or phoning: 01235 465577, or by clicking here.

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Upcoming training – with free books!

Our publisher LAG is running training courses by two of the Handbook’s editors as part of its autumn training programme.

Vicky Ling is delivering “Managing Civil Legal Aid Contracts” in London on 15 September. Participants get a free copy of the Handbook. More details here.

Anthony Edwards is embarking on a national tour speaking on criminal costs. Participants get a free copy of our sister publication, Anthony’s book (with Colin Beaumont) Criminal Costs. More details, including dates and venues, here.

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Summer sale – 20% off the Handbook

Our publisher LAG is running a summer sale. For August only, it is offering 20% off the Handbook and up to 30% off a range of its other excellent titles. Click here for more details of the offer.

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New free resources for keeping up with legal aid changes

We have updated our ‘LASPO resources‘ page – which is one of the most used features on this site and is recommended by LAPG.

It now has links to all the updated civil and crime regulations. If you are not sure what has changed, check out the 2013-14 Handbook Updates page.

We have also provided links to the peer review ‘improving your quality’ guides on the old LSC website. Although peer reviews are still being carried out and there is information on the process there are regrettably no support materials to help practitioners on the Legal Aid Agency website.

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When can CFAs replace legal aid?

Many practitioners are concerned about the implications of recent delays in granting legal aid whilst the LAA is making detailed investigations about whether CFAs are available – even in cases where they clearly are not.

This issue has arisen since the LAA re-designed the CIVAPP1 form.  Under the Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013 (Reg 39), the Director of Legal Aid has to consider whether the case is ‘unsuitable’ for a CFA and the LAA has changed the wording on the form so that it matches the regulation.

 Lots of people have mistakenly ticked ‘no’, to the question on p.8 of the form, indicating that they think the case IS suitable for a CFA, and the LAA is now coming back to them for more information.

 The Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on Civil Legal Aid says:

 7.17 The test of suitability for a CFA is an objective one, rather than a question of whether an individual provider is willing to act under a CFA. In principle a non-family case may be considered suitable for a conditional fee agreement if:

– Prospects of success are considered at least at 60%

– The opponent is considered able to meet any costs and/or damages (or other sum of money) that might be awarded

–  After-the-event insurance can be obtained by the applicant

7.18 An applicant without after-the-event insurance seeking services otherwise considered suitable for a CFA will be expected to provide evidence of attempts to secure such insurance. Even where evidence is provided of refusals of insurance, the Director him/herself may make enquiries of insurers to see if they would support a CFA in the individual circumstances

7.19 The absence of after-the-event insurance, perhaps because the applicant cannot afford or defer the premium, will not necessarily be fatal to CFA suitability. In particular, whilst cost protection may be an important consideration for an applicant, in a very strong case the risk of an adverse costs order will clearly be small. For example, if prospects of success are considered at least 80% and substantial disbursements are not required, the case is unlikely to satisfy this criterion.

7.20 The fact that the applicant may wish to obtain legal aid rather than a CFA because of the potential deduction from damages in respect of a success premium or damages agreement, will not of itself prevent a case being suitable for a CFA

What can you do?

 Obviously –make sure everyone ticks ‘yes’ in future!

 Ideas you might try in response to queries by the LAA:

 In cases where there will be no claim for damages (or no counterclaim) the client would not be able to obtain ATE insurance, so a CFA would not be realistic.

 You could try a pre-emptive ‘shopping around’ exercise of trying to attempt obtaining ATE in a couple of typical scenarios, so that you could use those as examples of why a CFA would not be available.

 If you are an NfP agency that does not offer CFAs, you could try asking a friendly firm whether they would accept some typical case scenarios on a CFA basis and again use their response as evidence that such cases are not commercially attractive. If you are a private firm that does offer CFAs, you could set out your criteria for accepting CFAs and why this case would not meet them.

 In many cases, urgent action is required so exploring the possibility of a CFA could jeopardise the client’s case, so not a realistic alternative to legal aid.

 The Legal Aid Practitioners Group understands the LAA’s view is that it may be possible for CFAs to be obtained, perhaps by a limited number of firms with good links to the insurance market and is seeking more information about this.

 LAPG, with ILPA and the Law Society have written a letter to the LAA, which they hope will be discussed at the Civil Contracts Consultative Group meeting on 9th September. This is another example of why it is a good idea to become a member of the appropriate representative body – they can take up issues on your behalf with the LAA. Don’t forget the bargain offer on LAPG membership if you mention the Legal Aid Handbook blog.

Simply email conference@lapg.co.uk and mention the fact that you saw the 14 months for the price of 12 offer on Legal Aid Handbook and tell them you want to sign up. Alternatively, you can go straight to their membership page.

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